The Pyramids of Giza: Location, History, Travel Tips...

By Margaux | Updated Apr. 16, 2024

The Pyramids of Giza are three of the best-known pyramids in the world; the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Together, the Giza Necropolis makes up a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

To find out more about visiting the pyramids of Giza, what you can see on the site, how to get to the pyramids, and who built them and why, read on!

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Where Are the Pyramids of Giza

Giza city and the pyramids, Egypt Giza city and the pyramids

The Giza pyramid complex, also known as the Giza necropolis, is in Giza, very close to Cairo. Once, this site was near the ancient capital of Memphis, explaining why a number of pharaohs, queens, and nobles from the Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt were buried there.

The pyramid complex at Giza contains the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramids of Menkaure, as well as their surrounding complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza. Together, along with other buildings and smaller pyramids on the site, these make up some of the most popular tourist destinations within Egypt, and are a must-see for anyone making a trip to Egypt. You'll need a full day to make the most of visiting the pyramids at Giza.

Suggested reading: How to Plan Your First Trip to Egypt — 7 Easy Steps

How to Get to the Pyramids of Giza

The Major Pyramids of Giza, EgyptThe Major Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

To get to the Pyramids of Giza from Cairo, you can either take a taxi, take an Uber, join an organized tour, or arrange for a private tour guide and driver to take you. Depending on where in Cairo you are staying, you'll likely be able to get to Giza in approximately 20–40 minutes.

Taking a tour guide to the pyramids is the best way to make sure you get all the background information and insights into the pyramid complex and the sights to see there. That way you can guarantee that you won't miss anything during your visit.

Suggested  reading: How to Travel from Cairo to Giza: Taxi, Bus, or Private Transfer?

Who Built the Pyramids of Giza and When?

The Great Pryamids and Nile river, EgyptThe Great Pryamids and Nile river, Egypt

The pyramids at Giza were built between 2600 and 2500 BC, during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. They were built by three pharaohs: Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. They built the Great Pyramid of Giza (sometimes also known as the Pyramid of Khufu), The Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure respectively.  King Khafre is also the one who built the Great Sphinx of Giza, which is also found on the site.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, or Khufu's Pyramid, was completed in 2560 BC, and it was built by Khufu's vizier, Hemiunu (also known as Hemon). The Great Pyramid has three smaller pyramids associated with it, as well as three boat pits which each contained a ship. Two of these were still intact after excavating. This is the biggest pyramid in Egypt, and the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Great Pyramid of Giza originally stood at 146.6 meters (481 feet) tall, and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. It currently reaches 138.5 meters (or 454 feet), as the outer white limestone has been removed.

Next to the main pyramid, there are also three smaller pyramids of Khufu's wives, an even smaller satellite pyramid, and five buried solar barges which you can also visit.

The Pyramid of Khafre was built by King Khafre around 2570 BC, and it is the second-tallest and second-largest of the three pyramids at Giza. The pyramid is unique because it maintains some of the original white casting stones at the top of the pyramid, giving us an idea about what the pyramid looked like after it was built.

The third pyramid, the Pyramid of Menkaure, was built between 2532 and 2515 BC by King Menkaure, King Khafre's son. It stands at 62 meters (203 feet) tall, and has one of the best preserved and most complex structures. In 1837, the remains of a wooden coffin were found inside, containing human bones, as well as a sarcophagus. While research has been done to find out exactly who was inside, results are inconclusive.

You can also contact us for an itinerary based on your interests, group size, budget, and other needs. All our tours can be adjusted.

Suggested reading: Who Built the Pyramids of Giza? Three Pharaohs.

Why Were They Built?

The Great Sphinx and Khufu pyramid of Giza, Egypt The Great Sphinx and Khufu pyramid of Giza, Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza were originally built as tombs for pharaohs, in order to help them prepare for their life as gods in the afterlife, as was in line with the ancient Egyptian belief system. This is why there are other temples surrounding the pyramids, making up the entire funerary complex.

In their belief system, death was just the beginning of the journey into another world, with ancient Egyptians being one of the first people showing a belief in the afterlife. The bigger the pyramid, the better the pharaoh's position in their next life, it was believed.

While their purpose is generally agreed upon amongst historians, there is some disagreement about the principles that may have given rise to them. One suggestion was that the pyramids were designed as a king of resurrection machine, pointing up at the night sky, which the ancient Egyptians believed to be the gateway to the heavens.

It's also interesting to note that all pyramids were built on the west bank of the Nile, which is where the sun sets, as is commonly associated with the realm of the dead, in line with Egyptian mythology.

Recommended reading:The Architecture of Egypt's Pyramids: Secret of Outside and Inside

How Were the Pyramids of Giza Built?

 The Pyramids of Giza, EgyptThe Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The pyramids' construction has always been one of the biggest unsolved puzzles of the world, considering they were built over 4,500 years ago and are still standing tall and strong today.

It is most commonly believed that huge stones were carved using bronze chisels, and that these blocks were dragged and lifted up onto the pyramids into position. This work was most likely carried out by slave labor, which would have had to be highly organized in order to get the job done. However, recent research at nearby workers' camps suggests the workers may also have been conscripted.

The Great Pyramid was built using an estimated 2.3 million large blocks, which are estimated to weigh 6 million tonnes in total. Most of the blocks were taken locally, from the Giza plateau, but some were imported from Tura (the white limestone) and Aswan (the granite), brought over by boat on the Nile. All of the blocks used for construction have a slightly different shape and size, giving it its unique look.

While there is still a lot of discussion about how the stones of the pyramids were carried into their spots given their size and weight, the discovery of an ancient ramp system in a quarry might help to explain how the stones were carried out of the quarry and onto the pyramid. No ramps were discovered at the pyramids themselves though, but it is frequently believed that a ramp would've been built alongside the pyramid in order to help build it. After building works on the pyramids was completed, this ramp would've been dismantled.

Suggested reading: Top 22 Pyramids of Giza Facts to Share with Kids.

What Was Found Inside the Pyramids of Giza?

Stairway of the tomb in the center of a pyramid at Giza, Cairo in EgyptStairway of the tomb in the center of a pyramid at Giza, Egypt

Inside the Great Pyramid, archaeologists have found a network of passageways and chambers, connecting through entrances, as well as air shafts. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot else found inside the pyramid, as they are mostly solid. The Great Pyramid's subterranean chambers were never completed, and relative to its size, there isn't a lot of space inside.

The Pyramid of Khafre's inside contains an entrance hall, a columned court, five niches for statues of pharaohs, five storage chambers and an inner sanctuary. Inside the Pyramid of Menkaure, there are chambers across three different levels, making for a much more complex pyramid than the Pyramid of Khafre.

If you decide to visit inside the Pyramid of Menkaure, you will see a burial chamber carved with decorative panels and massive granite blocks, and two coffins were originally discovered here including the remains of a wooden coffin with the name Menkaure written on it. This is now displayed at the British Museum in London. Another discovery was a sarcophagus which unfortunately sank along with a ship in 1838, as it made its way between Malta and the United Kingdom.

Given the complexity of the inside of the pyramids, they are worth visiting, even just for the experience of having been inside a pyramid. Take note that you'll have to buy an additional ticket, and there are only a limited number of tickets to enter the pyramids available each day. You can find more information about pricing below.

All of the pyramids at Giza are still being explored and excavated to this day, including by newer technology such as cosmic ray muon radiography, which is similar to doing an x-ray of the pyramid to find out how exactly the pyramid was put together, and whether there might be any passages or chambers that have previously gone undiscovered. Due to their sheer size, this remains a challenge.

Recommended reading:  What's Inside the Egyptian Pyramids?

Visiting the Pyramids of Giza: What to Wear and How Much it Costs

Pyramid of Menkaure, Cairo, EgyptPyramid of Menkaure, Cairo, Egypt

The pyramids are open to visitors between 8am and 5pm in the summer, and between 8am and 4pm in the winter.

Ticket prices to visit the Giza Pyramids start at 200 Egyptian pounds (10.2 USD), with additional fees to either enter the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre or the Pyramid of Menkaure, or to see the Solar Boat Museum. You can find additional costs below:

  • The Pyramids of Giza: 200 EGP (10.2 USD)
  • Sphinx of Giza: 80 EGP (5 USD)
  • Entry to the Great Pyramid: 400 EGP (20.4 USD)
  • Entry to the 2nd or the 3rd pyramid: 100 EGP or (5.1 USD)
  • Entry to the Solar Boat Museum: 100 EGP (5.1 USD)

For your visit, you'll want to make sure you're wearing light clothing to avoid getting too hot, covering up your shoulders and knees in line with Egyptian custom. It's better not to wear too much white clothing either, or anything that you don't want to get dirty, as there is a lot of sand and dust around the pyramids.

We also recommend wearing proper footwear since you'll be walking around a lot, and bringing a cap or sunscreen for your visit to the pyramids. This is to avoid getting sunburn, since you'll be outside exposed to the elements for most of the day.

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